Did Michael Masi manipulate 2021 Abu Dhabi GP for Netflix?

Max Verstappen won the 2021 Drivers' Championship following a break in the rules by former race director Michael Masi, who was later investigated by the FIA.

The producer of Netflix’s new tennis docuseries ‘Break Point’ has squashed any suggestion that former race director Michael Masi manipulated the 2021 season finale “for the TV”, with it simply being a case of somebody “under a lot of pressure”.

The 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is seemingly the race that will just never be forgotten, with it having already been brought up ahead of the forthcoming 2023 season.

For those unaware of the dramatic incident that took place at the 2021 finale, Masi broke multiple rules of the sport resulting in Max Verstappen overtaking Lewis Hamilton on the final lap, to claim his first title.

Hamilton had led the vast majority of the race and was comfortably on-track to claim an unprecedented eighth World Championship, before the race was turned on its head in the closing stages.

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A heavy crash for Nicholas Latifi in the final sector resulted in a late Safety Car, whilst Hamilton led from Verstappen.

At first, it appeared to be a completely normal Safety Car period, as the marshals got to work clearing the circuit.

However, as the debris was cleared, it was announced that no cars would be allowed to un-lap themselves, with there having been just one lap left.

Seconds later, though, it was announced that only the five-lapped cars between the two title rivals would be allowed to un-lap themselves, to the outrage of Mercedes.

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That was the first rule break made by Masi, with the second having happened moments later.

When cars are allowed to un-lap themselves, the Safety Car is supposed to conduct an additional lap, which in this case would’ve been the final lap.

Instead, it returned to the pits, allowing the final lap of the race to be run under green flag conditions, where Verstappen went on to overtake Hamilton and claim the title.

Hamilton labelled the event as “manipulated”, with the FIA having concluded after an investigation that Masi made a ‘human error’.

He was never allowed to officiate a Formula 1 race again.

Lando Norris at the time admitted that he felt the rules were broken “for the TV”, referring to F1-based Netflix docuseries ‘Drive to Survive’.

 “It was obviously made to be a fight, it was for the TV of course, it was for the result,” Norris said.

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Producer of ‘Break Point’ James Gay-Rees, though, completely disagrees with this, and is certain that Masi wasn’t “thinking” about what Netflix wanted.

“I think [Masi] was just under a lot of pressure and got things slightly wrong,” he told The Guardian.

“I don’t think he was thinking ‘What does Netflix want?’”